Saturday July 3rd 2010

Arusha – Moshi

The Road to Kilimanjaro

Alex my taxi driver picked me up at 9am to take me on the 1600km round
trip from Arusha to Moshi.  He had borrowed a more powerful and
comfortable car for the occasion but soon into the trip I realised
that this may not be such a good thing.  As we drove through the fast
moving traffic, he would periodically slow down, and in a helpful way,
point out all the places where buses and cars had careered of the road
causing the bloody deaths of their occupants.  He would then test his
new brakes by seeing how quickly he could accelerate up to the car in
front before applying those brakes.

My first near death experience (of three) on this African trip
occurred when Alex had to swerve wildly to narrowly avoid a speeding
Safari 4×4 approaching us on the same side of the road.  Somewhat
shaken I politely ask him to slow down a bit and keep his eye on the
traffic.  It was only after he decided to accelerate through a busy
town while preparing a text message (probably relaying to his friends
how fast this car was) that I felt compelled to utter the words ‘will
you slow the F&*k down’ in a fairly robust manner.  I know this
probably wasn’t the most sympathetic way to interact with a local taxi
driver but it did seem to do the trick and the rest of the journey
passed uneventfully.  On a more serious note, Fr Mike told me this
evening that a parish priest from Arusha had been killed in a traffic
accident the previous day on the very same road to Moshi.

The main purpose of my day-trip was to visit Rev. Dr Philbert Vumilia
(Principal) and Rev. Fr Adalbert Donge (Deputy Principal) of Mwenge
University College of Education (, a Catholic Teacher
Training College on the outskirts of Moshi.   They specialise in
training science teachers and have advanced plans to develop a
Computer Science course within the college.  Other attraction were
that they seemed very committed to community development, in
particular working with the 100 or so secondary schools within the
Moshi Diocese and they had built a strong relationship with the Irish
NGO VMM (Voluntary Missionary Movement) with whom we also work
closely.  The discussions were very constructive and I think this is a
real partnership possibility for us assuming we can identify
sufficient space some where on their campus.  Even if there were
nothing else to commend the place, it is literally located at the foot
of Kilimanjaro and when you step out of the front gate and look up
through the trees you see the full majesty of what is surely one of
the seven wonders of the world

Having safely navigated the road back from Moshi, myself and Orla
McGrath met with Eamonn Brehony who was visiting from Ireland but who
had previously worked in Arusha with the Medical Missionaries of Mary.
Eamonn mentioned the possibility of talking to Mount Meru University
about setting the Hub at their campus in Ngaramtoni about five kms
outside of Arusha.  I didn’t have a chance to visit the University on
this trip but reading its website I am already fascinated by the
it began life in 1962 as the International Baptist Theological
Seminary of Eastern Africa (IBTSEA) and kept that wonderful name for
40 years;
its Vision is -‘To be a fountain of knowledge and wisdom that produces
excellent, God fearing, visionary, skilled, proactive, hardworking and
transforming servant leaders.’ Wonderful!

Sunday July 4th 2010


Sunday Mass in Africa

I have long since stopped deriving any spiritual meaning from the
Catholic mass celebrated in modern Ireland.  I go occasionally, out of
tradition or to celebrate some family event, but the rote responses
and meaningless (to me) sermons I find a distraction rather an
uplifting experience.

African mass is different however.  First it starts early, at 6:30am
and by the time we arrived it was standing room only.  Its long, about
2 ½ hours, but I’ve been at 30 minute masses in Ireland that were much
longer.  It was celebrated in fluent Swahili by Fr Mike in front of
1,500 Tanzanians, 25 Irish and 3 Germans.  The main difference in the
mass however is the singing, swaying and clapping of the people – they
seem to understand much better what the word ‘Celebration’ means.
Whether you are a devout or lapsed Catholic, I challenge anyone not to
be moved by the spirituality of these people, in this place and time
they lifted themselves out of the dire poverty that affects their
everyday lives.

I spent the rest of the day in my hotel room catching up on this diary
and in the evening met up with the other Irish volunteers in a local
bar-b-que restaurant, where for 10,000 Tanzanian Shillings (€6) I
stuffed myself with chicken, beef (I think!) and chips washed down
with three large Safari beers.  At this stage I had become an honorary
member of Galway’s ‘Return to Tanzania’ party so was not forced to
sing any more of ‘Molly Malone’, much to everyone’s relief. My two
main tormentors: Alan (the ‘Plumber’) and Con (the ‘part-time band
singer’) told me they were planning some life-changing moves after
this trip – Alan off to Australia to train rugby players and Con to
enrol in a social studies course at GMIT prior to getting into
development work.  Good luck to both of them.

Monday July 5th 2010

Aruba – Stone Town

Six Degrees of Separation

In 1929, Frigyes Karinthy an Hungarian author
first came up with the concept that everyone on the Earth is only six
steps away from any other person – the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ or
‘Human Web’ as it is now called.  I am curious to see if this theory
works, and if anyone in my own network knows this random person I met
at the airport today (see below).

Alex, the taxi driver, picked me up at the hotel at 6:30am to catch a
9:15am flight from Kilimanjaro International Airport to Zanzibar.  The
flight was 3 ½ hours late so I did something I don’t normally do in
airports and that is strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger.
As we waited I got this information. Her name (I think but couldn’t
swear)was Nadine, an American lady – single, Caucasian, aged 38 – who
had been travelling around the world on and off since April 2009.  She
had given up her job in Pensions because she hated it and was hoping
to change careers to something she loved, like travelling to exotic
countries (she could become CEO of Camara).  She was from Philadelphia
and her father was Scottish (a Dundee United supporter) and her mother
was American and a teacher – both of whom were soon to retire.  She
was born in London and travelled on her British passport as entry
visas were generally much cheaper than for US passports.  She had just
recently been in South Africa to watch the World Cup where she had
managed to watch the three worst matches in the whole tournament:
England – Algeria (0-0); Brazil – Portugal (0-0); and Paraguay – Japan
(0-0) after extra time.  Anyone know her?

Despite being 3 ½ hours late taking off, flying low in a
single-engined aircraft over the Tanzanian coast line, with the
turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean sparkling in the distance made
this flight one of the most memorable I have taken.    On landing in
Zanzibar I was equally captivated by its capital Stone Town.  Its
mixture of Africa, Arab and Indian influences, a balmy climate,
eclectic cuisine and friendly people makes it a place I hope to bring
my wife to one day.  Not however to stay where I ended up – in a small
hotel called Princess Salme beside the commercial fish market and 10
minutes walk down some dubious streets to the town centre. For $25 per
night well worth the money but not suitable for someone with Fiona’s
sensitive disposition!